When the USAF acquisition directorate chose Brazil’s Super Tucano to outfit the Afghan air force over rival Hawker-Beechcraft’s AT-6 offering, howls could be heard from Wichita all the way to Sandy Eggo.
I guess somebody heard them:
The U.S. Air Force said Tuesday it would set aside a contract awarded late last year to Sierra Nevada Corp. to supply planes to Afghanistan’s military, a surprise move that may reopen the contest to rival Hawker Beechcraft Inc.
The Air Force also said it would launch an investigation into the contract to deliver training and light-attack planes to Afghanistan, worth $355 million…
The contract award, announced in late December, had been seen as an important win for Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer SA, which teamed up with Sierra Nevada to offer a fleet of Super Tucano single-engine turboprop planes.
But procurement of the Afghan warplanes became a politically charged issue. Hawker Beechcraft, the product of a 2007 leveraged buyout by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Onex Partners, filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims after the Air Force excluded its proposed design, the Beechcraft AT-6. The Wichita, Kan.-based company and its supporters also played up potential U.S. job losses as a result of its exclusion.
“While we pursue perfection, we sometimes fall short, and when we do we will take corrective action,” said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, in a statement Tuesday. “Since the acquisition is still in litigation, I can only say that the Air Force senior acquisition executive, David Van Buren, is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”
The Super Tucano is a more mature product, and therefore has lower initial acquisition risks. But Hawker Beechcraft has the advantages of secure logistics lines, which prevents sustainment of the aircraft from being subjected to foreign pressures. All this before you get to the issues of outsourcing one of our few areas of unquestioned industrial dominance and the domestic jobs that goes with it. Where the USAF pooched the deal is by excluding the AT-6 from the competition without telling the vendor why their bid had been denied a chance to compete.
I suspect you’ll see more of this, with more defense contractors grappling for a slice of a smaller defense budget.